FH #72   The six wives of Henry VIII were executed because they were unable to give him a male heir?



You can’t walk into a bookshop at the moment without risking a debilitating injury should a copy of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light fall on any of your soft tissue. The book, which numbers around a thousand pages, is a true Mantel-piece and almost as heavy. The book begins with an execution and there might be an upsurge in sales today because it’s a significant anniversary.

The fifteenth of May wasn’t a great day for Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII. Not, admittedly, nearly as bad as the day of her execution, the anniversary of which falls early next week. Her trial for treason began today in 1536 in front of a special jury. An extra special jury really. That’s because it had probably reached its verdict on the fourteenth of May. There are times when jurors, like the chairs of committees of inquiry, know exactly what is required of them. Henry VIII urgently needed to become a widower so that he could carry on his policy of serial monogamy,  something which, owing to frequent practice, he was developing into a fine art.


Anne Boleyn

Henry VIII, as even a visiting Martian probably knows, had six spouses. As it happens he’s only trotting after Richard Pryor and Jerry Lee Lewis, with seven each. Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Larry King and Lana Turner with eight, and the brand leader Zsa Zsa Gabor with nine. However, as far as we know, none of the aforementioned caused any of their cast-off spouses to be executed. If you have information to the contrary please phone 911.

However, there seems to be a notion abroad that Henry ordered the passing of all six of his wives because they were not able to provide him with a male heir. If that were actually the case he might well have stopped to consider that perhaps the problem did not lie with his spouses, but with the fact that he was shooting the next best things to blanks. But Kings, of course, don’t entertain such notions. They are not required to do so and no physician this side of the Hippocratic oath would be daft enough to suggest such a possibility to a monarch with a French executioner on speed dial.

But, the fact is that it’s not true anyway. First off, one of Henry’s six wives survived him. He died in 1547, she outlived him by a year, and by the way, is the most married English Queen, with four husbands of her own, three of whom pre-deceased her. In an Agatha Christie novel Poirot would have been all over Catherine Parr.

Secondly, Henry did actually produce a male heir. His son, Edward, was born to his third wife, Jane Seymour and acceded to the English throne on Henry’s death. The fact that he was young and sickly, died at the age of fifteen, and reigned for only six years, is neither here nor there. His half-sister Elizabeth, daughter of the unfortunate Anne Boleyn, more than made up for him. Good Queen Bess was way better than any English King and would have made a good Roman Emperor into the bargain. However, she might not have been such a good Dalai Lama.

The runners and riders in the King Henry VIII Challenge Cup—the challenge being not to cheese him off so much he had you beheaded—were as follows.

Catherine of Aragon, produced one female heir, Mary – divorced.

Ann Boleyn, produced one female heir, fooled around with anyone with a codpiece – decapitated

Jane Seymour (not to be confused with the person who portrayed Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) – produced male heir and paid for it with her life when she died shortly after childbirth.

Anne of Cleves, aka the ‘Fat Flanders Mare’. She failed to live up to Hans Holbein’s flattering portrait, lasted six months during which the marriage was not consummated. She was despatched to Chelsea with an annulment, was known thereafter as The King’s Beloved Sister, and had the last laugh when she outlived him and all his other Queens

Catherine Howard, failed to produce an heir and was also allegedly prone to a nicely turned doublet and hose. She was decapitated for having sex with her cousin.

Catherine Parr, reached the finishing post, as Queen, ahead of Henry, and therefore wins the Challenge Cup.

But is it any wonder why we are fascinated by the Tudors. Hilary Mantel will probably win three Booker Prizes without even having had to make anything up.

Bu,t as to whether Henry went through all his wives with an axe, come on people,         the man wasn’t a monster, he only beheaded two of them.

Fake Histories #13 – 29.3.2019   The last major Brexit took place because Henry VIII rejected a corrupt, anti-Christian Roman Catholic Church?




A cheery welcome to 29 March 2019 – a date long embroidered on the pillows and silk handkerchiefs of Jacob Rees Mogg and Boris Johnston.

I’m sure we’re all pleased things have worked out so well for them.



Cheeringly there is a precedent for the chaos of Brexit – back in a time when a Catholic, like Mr Rees Mogg, might well have found himself tied to a stake and burned alive. I refer to the sixteenth century and the reign of that most portly of Tudor monarchs, King Henry VIII.

Now Henry, whatever his other failings, undoubtedly had a great affection for the institution of marriage. Connubiality would have been his middle name except that it was too long to fit on the royal seal. Generally, however, the notion of connubiality revolves around a strong affiliation to the same wife. Harry, however,  seemed to just like marrying.  Maybe he had a weakness for wedding ceremonies or, more likely, he wanted a son and heir and had limited patience with any of his queens who failed to provide same. Either way, he married six times.

There was a mythology in ‘ye olde Englande’ that Henry parted ways with the European Union of its day—the Holy Roman Empire—and the Pope himself, because of his disgust with the abuses and corruption that plagued the Roman Catholic Church and had been highlighted by Martin Luther. These included the sale of indulgences to facilitate entry into heaven for those who could afford them, and a clergy many of whom thought of priestly celibacy as a quaint optional extra.

While the Roman Catholic Church in general, and the Papacy in particular, was desperately in need of reform in the sixteenth century, that was not quite the reason Henry VIII split from Rome, dissolved the monasteries, and established the Church of England. He did it for those most elemental reasons of all, sex and money. Far from having an issue with the Church of Rome his 1521 work Defence of the Seven Sacraments was an anti-Lutheran polemic that supported the supremacy of the Pope and earned him the official title Defender of the Faith. The British monarchy still likes to rub the Vatican’s nose in that one, by keeping it on their coins.

But this was one of those moments where the club chairman makes a staunch case for the team manager and fires him three weeks later. When the Pope of the day, Clement VII, said ‘no, grazie’ to Henry’s request for a divorce from his first wife Catherine, so that he could marry the lovely Anne Boleyn (whom he later beheaded) Henry severed the Roman connection. Clement could consider himself lucky that the severing did not involve his cranium. Henry then declared himself head of the Church of England, with benefits. He set about realising the value of dozens of Catholic monasteries by asset stripping the lot and putting the proceeds into his Post Office savings account. Previously much of the surplus funds from the monasteries had been channelled towards Brussels … sorry, I meant Rome.

Had he split from the Vatican on the basis of a principled campaign against the venality of the 16thcentury church you might expect that he would shelter and support the English followers of Martin Luther. But Protestant reformers suffered just as much under Henry after the so-called ‘English reformation’ as did supporters of Pope Clement (perhaps let’s not call them Clementines).

So, did Henry VIII bring about a principled and morally sound separation from Rome in the 1530s because of rampant sleaze in the upper echelons of the Catholic Church? Sadly not. He took back control, but his motives were rather less exalted. To suggest otherwise is fake history.